Entertainment

Ho Shing saves the day

BY RICHARD JOHNSON
Observer senior reporter

Friday, February 02, 2018

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Playwright and theatre producer Basil Dawkins has given us a string of favourites over the past years. However, it is unfortunate that Pressure Drop, his current work on the boards at the Little Little Theatre in St Andrew, is not one of his best.

The work looks at the trials of a young, upwardly mobile couple, played by Canute Fagan and Maylynne Lowe, who fall on hard times. They must 'beg a kotch' with the husband's unfiltered and outspoken father (Earl Brown) until their lot improves.

On paper, this is a plausible jumping point for a dramatic piece intertwined with comedy. Dawkins even throws in a great plot twist as the sauce thickens with the arrival of the wife's mother (Ruth Ho Shing). However, what this production lacks is the necessary meat to cover up these bones.

Characters and storylines are not sufficiently crafted to draw in an audience and keep them for the near two hours of the production. The first half of the production is slow and, at times, devoid of the hooks necessary to hold the audience from one scene to the next. The two younger members of the cast are flat at times — not embodying the characters and making them believable.

Thank goodness there are flashes of brilliance that offer a lifeline, preventing the pressure from dropping right out of this one.

Ho Shing saves every scene she is in.

In what must be her most captivating performance in recent years, the former Producer/presenter at the now defunct JBC TV should make it to this year's Actor Boy Awards with a nomination for this portrayal of Dotsy — the Alzheimer's-stricken mother who is just dumped on her daughter and son-in-law during their lowest moment.

Ho Shing embodies every fibre of Dotsy's being. Even in scenes where she is not the centre of attention, one can't help but be drawn in by her performance. A prime example occurs when she's off to the side playing dominoes by herself and the scene continues, yet the audience instinctively follows her, ignoring the other actors.

Earl Brown, who plays the patriarch and centre of the story, gets caught in the jet stream of Ho Shing's performance. He is pulled along and delivers some strong moments in Pressure Drop. His no-holds-barred one liners and physical performance is spot on.

The other winner in this production is the set.

In the publicity notes, Dawkins pays tribute to long-time collaborator and set builder Michael Lorne, who passed away last year. However, he seems to have found another winner in Patrick Russell, who designed and constructed the set for this production.

The entire production takes place in front of a rural house of a time gone by. The attention to detail is noteworthy. Horseshoes over doors, the enamel goblet and basin for ablutions (the chamber pot was missing, but mention was made of it); kitchen bitch and lanterns, a barrel at the side of the house to catch precious rain water and the obligatory jalousie windows — a standard of that Jamaican vernacular style of architecture are but some of the finer details that hold your attention and visually add authenticity to the work.

Perhaps the pressure of always having to come up with a strong production each year has resulted in Dawkins dropping the ball on this one. Let's hope he can return to his winning ways soon.

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